Wednesday, 10 June 2009

beetroot leaf salad with garlic and thyme


did you know you could eat beetroot leaves? have i said this before?

i can't help it. it's like a disease. i find it pathologically satisfying to not throw anything (however vaguely) edible away. every single day i think how nice it would be to have a garden so i can compost leftovers. or at least a rabbit. i revel in infrequency of our bin-emptying.

i think it would be glib to presume this has a lot to do with my commie upbringing. maybe a little bit but not a lot. i do, however, find it funny that we're now going back to what i grew up with. you know, recycling plastic bags, or shopping at local markets, or making your own jam. maybe we could introduce the odd/even car number plate driving on alternate weekends? add a few power cuts (by neighbourhood, please, spending a whole evening playing cards by candlelight is a lot more boring than you think) and we could be on to something.

but i don't think it's that. it's more to do with feeling a bit sorry for the thing that had to die so i could eat it. if you think that's an exaggeration, believe me, it's not: aged ten, i got very maudlin (i think i wrote a story about it) because they cut down a spruce tree so they could build our cottage in the mountains. incidentally, that is why vegetarianism based on humane grounds never made much sense to me - i feel as sorry for a lettuce that's just been cut as i do for a dead animal.

so, somehow, the fact that i've used the whole plant or animal makes me feel a bit better about death. it's hard work being a slav, no?

and anyway, beetroot leaves are nice. these were glossy, almost waxy green and came from a new stall at the farmer's market. the woman who runs it actually has dirt under her fingernails and sells fennel with fronds and beetroot with leaves - and you can't go wrong with that.

the leaves taste a bit like spinach but more earthy. i wanted to cook them simply to go with the fennel-roasted salmon i was having for dinner.

(a word of warning - your kitchen may look like a scene from the exorcist. beetroot stains everything red, including your wee.)

BEETROOT LEAF SALAD WITH GARLIC AND THYME

a bunch of young beetroot, leaves and all
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
pine nuts, toasted
pumpkin seeds, toasted (feel free to use any other nuts and sees. i think it would be nice with walnuts)
a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked

separate the leaves from the roots, and discard any discoloured ones. wash both (you might need to scrub the roots a bit), then steam the roots for 15 or so minutes and leaves for ten. leave to drain. chop the leaves. scrape the skin off the roots with your hands (wear gloves if you can be bothered, it will stain), the chop and mix in with the leaves.

add some olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, the thyme, the garlic and some seasoning. try to do this while the beetroot is still warm as it seems to absorb the dressing better.

dry-toast your chosen nuts and/or seeds and add to the salad. mix well and eat at room temperature.

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